Context: Recent legislation in 5 states and the District of Columbia mandated state disclosure of payments made to physicians by pharmaceutical companies. In 2 of these states, Vermont and Minnesota, payment disclosures are publicly available.
Objectives: To determine the accessibility and quality of the data available in Vermont and Minnesota and to describe the prevalence and magnitude of disclosed payments.
Design and setting: Cross-sectional analysis of publicly available data from July 1, 2002, through June 30, 2004, in Vermont and from January 1, 2002, through December 31, 2004, in Minnesota.
Main outcome measures: Accessibility and quality of disclosure data and the number, value, and type of payments of $100 or more to physicians.
Results: Access to payment data required extensive negotiation with the Office of the Vermont Attorney General and manual photocopying of individual disclosure forms at Minnesota's State Board of Pharmacy. In Vermont, 61% of payments were not released to the public because pharmaceutical companies designated them as trade secrets and 75% of publicly disclosed payments were missing information necessary to identify the recipient. In Minnesota, 25% of companies reported in each of the 3 years. In Vermont, among 12,227 payments totaling $2.18 million publicly disclosed, there were 2416 payments of $100 or more to physicians; total, $1.01 million; median payment, $177 (range, $100-$20,000). In Minnesota, among 6946 payments totaling $30.96 million publicly disclosed, there were 6238 payments of $100 or more to physicians; total, $22.39 million; median payment, $1000 (range, $100-$922,239). Physician-specific analyses were possible only in Minnesota, identifying 2388 distinct physicians who received payment of $100 or more; median number of payments received, 1 (range, 1-88) and the median amount received, $1000 (range, $100-$1,178,203).
Conclusions: The Vermont and Minnesota laws requiring disclosure of payments do not provide easy access to payment information for the public and are of limited quality once accessed. However, substantial numbers of payments of $100 or more were made to physicians by pharmaceutical companies.